Hungarian Film Production is in Better Shape Now – An Interview with Károly Fehér

Károly Fehér had barely finished producing his first feature-length film when he began working on a new horror movie. He was recently invited – along with his latest project – to EaVE’s producers’ workshop. We talked with Károly about his upcoming projects and the current state of Hungarian film production.

How did your film career start and what was your first job as a producer?

The first feature film that I was lucky enough to be part of was a significant movie. It was Géza Bereményi’s European Film Award winning piece The Midas Touch (Eldorádó). I have since worked on several films in various positions, but my first time producing was in Gábor Rohonyi’s Konyec. It was actually Mónika Mécs who asked me to be the executive producer on the film. I have since produced several thesis films at the University of Theatre and Film Arts in Budapest, as well as shorts.

Photo by Bence Szemerey

Photo by Bence Szemerey

Which of your films are you most proud of as a producer?

Lili Horváth’s The Wednesday Child. It was my first independent work as a producer, not to mention Lili’s debut feature film. It was also one of the first projects to get support from the new Hungarian Film Fund and one of the first filmed as a Hungarian-German coproduction. It’s essentially a drama. It touches on serious social problems while following the life of Maja, a 19-year-old girl who grew up in an orphanage. She hopes to become a productive member of society in a small town near Budapest and tries to create the necessary conditions to get custody of her five year old son. Existential struggles follow her on her journey to motherhood.

After finishing production of The Wednesday Child, you immediately moved on to a new project, which earned you an invitation to the EaVE producers’ Workshop. What opportunities does EaVE have to offer?

EAVE, which is actually sponsored by the EU, provides training and development support for producers. Each year, they invite 50 candidates based on applications and project ideas. I applied with a socio-horror project called The Estate, and I was given the opportunity to take part in the workshop. The script is being written by Balázs Lovas, and Péter Fazakas will direct.

How can EaVE contribute to the development of this film?

The program consists of three one-week-long workshops, where the participants are divided into groups of 8-10. During the first week, with the help of a project leader, we will focus on developing our script. After that, we move on to production, looking for coproduction and financing opportunities in the process. Finally, we discuss the marketing and distribution aspects.

The workshop closes with a pitch, during which I will present our project in front of an international jury composed of 50-60 producers, sales agents and distributors. This is an excellent opportunity to develop our project, meet potential co-production partners, and perhaps find an international sales partner.

Read the Berlinale edition on Issuu

After working in such a complex co-production, what’s your opinion on Hungarian film production?

Since the foundation of the Hungarian Film Fund, I’d say that overall film production is at a better place than in previous years. The application process and funding system work, evidenced by the production of several internationally acclaimed films. There are disagreements and an occasional clash of opinions between producers and Hungarian Film Fund executives, which can be expected in this line of work. But we are constantly working together to resolve our differences and find common ground.

However, creating films is just the first part of the story, it is also important to find the audience for them. What’s your take on Hungarian film distribution?

I’m not the most experienced producer when it comes to distribution, but it’s clear that, in general, traditional methods of distribution can hinder success. I don’t think that ticket sales always reflect the true value of a given film. There are, of course, some promising examples among artistic films (White God, For Some Inexplicable Reason) and genre movies as well (What Ever Happened to Timi, Coming Out, Swing), but these are exceptions to the rule. I strongly believe that by using more modern and effective methods, such as opportunities online and creating distribution strategies that focus on a movie’s unique qualities, we can really advance the popularity of Hungarian film.

by Nándor Tóth

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